If we all just accepted things as they are, we would still be working with MS-DOS or Windows 95 today... I do not accept things as they are (certainly not if they are wrong) but want to improve and modernize them.
My own data show very clearly that in my pool of readers, nobody ever (and I mean: never ever) clicks categories or tags. Which is why, to improve clarity, I completely abolished categories a year ago, and left tags in place only because Google still seems to need them. This has not negatively affected my user stats, on the contrary! And while my sidebar tag cloud remains a never-clicked gimmick, my Contents page is visited daily. The reasons ought to be clear.
One reason, for example, is that tags are totally arbitrary. If I write a post about electroshocks, I can tag it "ECT" or "electroshocks" or "electro-convulsive therapy" and so on. This can be very confusing to users. In my Contents page on the other hand, they don't need to wonder exactly how I might have tagged things. They simply find related articles, such as those about ECT, intuitively grouped together (with visible titles). As a method of access, this works about 10,000 times better.
What in the background may play a role here, is that WordPress as a platform is perhaps still way too much based on a too-limited, outdated, geeky idea of what a blog actually can be. This limited vision may imply (among other things) the idea that blog posts are time-tied, so lose value over time, so don't need some permanent kind of status and accessibility. But in reality, what I posted about Sigmund Freud two years ago is still just as relevant to readers today. It therefore deserves its own permanent link, not to be buried under a diffuse layer of tags. Want a concrete example? Almost three years ago I wrote a post about the suicide of Richard Manuel. Right now, that post still (and to my own surprise, I confess) keeps getting 10-to-15 readers every week. You see, this kind of permanency calls for a new and better vision on how blogging should work. Here, very brief, is my philosophy:
Writing a blog is like writing a book. It's not like writing a random series of throwaway notes blowing away in the wind, no, it's writing something to keep as part of larger (and to some extend well-planned) whole. The main difference being, of course, that this kind of book keeps growing and growing: this is a kind of book where new pages get inserted all the time, in very different chapters of the book. Over time, this makes the book as a whole more and more valuable to people who come to read it. But still, this book does need some kind of chapter structure, to provide accessibility in line with its overall setup and intentions. You wouldn't want to build a book that offers an extensive word register, but no clear structure (and, for example, no advice on the best order in which to read chapters). Yet, that kind of jumble seems to be the guiding idea for the WordPress geeks...
Is that smart? I think not. This is a blog philosophy that basically is still built on something like an antique 1995 Excel database idea. I think if that really is the idea, then it's being blind to the actual needs of both writers and readers. A tiny bit, perhaps (forgive me the parallel) like how the inflexible, dogmatic Microsoft geeks who developed Windows 8 proved fatally blind to the every-day needs of common desktop users...
At the moment, I pay WordPress only $100 a year for my blog. I am aware of course that one cannot expect too much flexibility and innovation for such a paltry price, so I will not blame WordPress too much for its (sometimes weird) limitations. If I had the money, I would gladly pay a few thousands a year to my own web developer to run a blog that would be much better adjusted to my own needs, and those of my readers. One that would offer a more intuitive, harmonic, valuable kind of blog-structuring that fits better in the life-integrated way how we (at least some of us) consume content today.
Maybe I should find a sponsor... Or maybe, even better, I should make some time free and start a Kickstarter initiative for developing a truly modern alternative blog platform: one that would be adapted to the needs, not of cat-photo browsers, but of serious readers... Yes, I have a dream: a much better experience for both authors and readers -- and I think that with the help of some techies, I would have no trouble filling that in.
OK Raincoaster, thanks for getting me to think about this.